Friday, July 13, 2007

Peer Pressure

I wouldn't describe myself as someone who likes to be *different*. Especially if being different in some way might make me stand out against the crowd. I did manage to solve the whole "peer pressure" issue at school mostly by surrounding myself with friends who had similar interests to myself.

What I wasn't really prepared for is that the issues of "fitting in" and "not wanting to be different" don't really end when you leave school. There are the *in* groups of mothers at school and kindy, the *in* places to hang out and the *in* people to have as friends. It kind of annoys me that some people seem to have struggled to mature past the adolescent stage of life but in general it doesn't really affect my quality of life. The *in* people are still a select few and the majority of the population are more *average* like myself. :-) (I don't mean average in a derogatory way either).

However, there are still a certain amount of standards or expectations that are generally held within our society. The kind of car you drive says something about you. The size of your home (with the general consensus that "bigger is better") makes a statement to the rest of the community. Many people size you up by the type of clothes you wear - or more importantly what you dress your CHILDREN in. It's unreal the price of label brand children's wear isn't it. Do you work or do you stay at home. Do you have enough money to buy lunch AND tea at the football club or do you bring your own. How many family holidays do you take and WHERE do you go (or even HOW you get there - not even DH or I have ever been on a large plane, let alone our children).

The kind of job your dad (or husband) has and the kind of salary and kudos that accompany that job. Does your mum work? Do you have the latest gadget toys (before they drop in price of course)? What about a shack or a boat? Are you busy enough that you have to book in to see friends at least a month in advance? How stressed is your life (with more stress adding to your importance in society somehow)? And the list goes on.

I was relaxing in the bath last night and reading the Wellbeing Good Health Guide that I bought from the newsagent the other day. It's not a cheap magazine and I certainly don't agree with all the things they print but a lot of the articles really make me stop and think about my life. I love reading stuff that encourages me to think and challenges my thoughts and ideas. If you've not heard of it before they have a website at www.wellbeing.com.au .

The article was titled "Desperately Seeking...Me" and written by Melissa Rimac. She begins by talking about the horrible word "should". You know the one.... "I should be a good mum and allow my kids to play sport, take music lessons and ferry them here there and everywhere so they'll grow up to be well rounded adults". "I should be able to manage it all...work, home, family, volunteering...." and the list goes on. I'm sure we could all come up with hundreds of sentences or thoughts that begin with the words "I should....".

Here's where I REALLY struggle with the whole peer pressure thing. It's so much more subtle than the old "c'mon, 1 drink isn't going to hurt anyone" type pressure that happens at school. It's ingrained in us as we grow up in society. It's all around us. Everyone else is doing it so how can it be bad for me?

What's that saying? Something about if you're calm while everyone else around you is panicking then you obviously don't understand the situation. That's how I feel when I make choices in life that are different from those who are around me. I love my friends - they're wonderful people. But at times I feel like the direction I'm heading in life is so different to where they are heading and that scares me. It scares me that somehow I've got it wrong.

I don't want to be a leader. I don't want to be different. I want to follow the crowd. And yes, if the mob of sheep I was following all jumped off the edge of the cliff - I would probably feel quite nervous not to do the same thing myself. LOL.

Problem is, what the majority of society seem to be doing and where they are heading just isn't ME! I guess I'm on a bit of a journey at the moment to discover who the real me is. All my life I've tried so hard to please everyone else. Somehow the only way I could feel positive about myself was through the approval of others. And we all know how impossible it is to keep everyone happy. It's a very self destructive way to live.

Here's a quote from the article I mentioned that really hit me between the eyes.

"...the hollow approval of others is much like a sugar hit. Sure, it may give you a quick surge, but it hardly provides much sustenance or nourishment. Rather, it leaves you depleted and almost frantically seeking out something more wholesome."

Hmmm... how true is that. I think it leaves me seeking out the next sugar rush - and then I end up just plain tired and flat when the "blood sugar levels" of my emotions *crash*.

Here's another section that really spoke to me:

"Like the contrast between a lovingly prepared homecooked meal and reheated muck that's been in the bain-marie for a couple of hourss, choosing the mass produced option is like starving yourself of essential nourishment; your instinctive, unique and intrinsic thoughts, feelings and heartfelt desires."

I'm not trying to say that friendships aren't important or that how other people view me doesn't have it's place. I guess where I'm trying to head with my own understanding of myself is that it can't be ONLY about that. And that even if there is no-one else on earth who thinks the same way I do, that doesn't necessarily mean that I am *wrong*.

My head is a whirl of questions, thoughts and ideas. It's an exciting time in my life as I try to understand who I am and how I do or don't fit in this world. I still feel quite nervous about the direction my life seems to be taking. But I've decided that's not an excuse to abandon the journey.

One thing I do know - I never want to stop learning, growing and changing. So it's okay to follow this path and see where it leads. And if down the track, it no longer suits me, I can follow another path. If that leads me back to where I am now. So be it. That doesn't mean the journey hasn't been meaningful and an opportunity to learn and grow.

And if you're reading this and thinking "she's totally flipped a lid" - well that's okay too. We're all unique with a unique path to follow in life. It's time for us all to dare to be who we were designed to be. :-)

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Lightening I found your blog from down to earths blog, I could have written this post myself. I've been on the same journey for the last few years and am struggling with many of the things that you describe. I have got to the place now where I really don't care about others perceptions of me, i'm quite comfy with my life, but I'm still learning and growing and evolving

Lenny

lightening said...

Hi Lenny,
Thanks so much for dropping by. I love the way the internet can bring people together with similarities of all kinds. :-) It's great to hear that others have walked a similar track.

I really really enjoy down to earths blog! :-) Such a special lady.

Here's the address if anyone is interested. Only I can't work out how to make it into a link - sorry.

http://down---to---earth.blogspot.com/

emma said...

Hi Jodi,

Very thought-provoking post. It's a bit more simplistic than what I think you're getting out, but I think DR warns against following the crowd with the phrase "most people are broke". I think most people (or maybe it's just the people I know?) want their lives to be different but don't know how to make change happen - and maybe don't even have the time or energy to really think about what's missing or what they'd like to gain. I think it's natural to want to belong though...

Will check out the blog you mentioned, this should make it a link...

Not sure if this will work but trying to make the code show... /**/ (the /* is to try and make the code show....

emma said...

Oops sorry will try again with the link... Down to Earth blog - don't know how to make the code visible sorry.

Kez said...

Great post Jodi. What you said really spoke to me I've never had a lot of close friends because I was always different - as I've grown older and changed a lot over the last 5 years I'm still different, just in a different way lol. I find more support from my online friends (like you :) ) than those in real life - I would be very isolated without the internet.

Chickee said...

Hi Jodi,

I think you have come such a long way in your journey to discover the 'real' you - great post!

Heidi

Jackie said...

Jodi,

What it all boils down to at the end of the day is that you have to be able to look yourself in the mirror and like yourself. I, too spent years trying to be something and someone that I was not. When I finally allowed myself to be myself, the person I was comfortable with and being, I became a lot happier person. I do not follow the crowd, and it does not bother me if I am different. In fact, I have had people tell me that they envy the fact that I am so comfortable with myself and say no to outside influencesm especially here in So Cal. Hang in there, and be yourself. I love reading your blog, and think, from rading it, that you are someone that I would be proud to call friend.

lightening said...

Emma - thanks for your help with the link.

Kez - glad to call you a friend!

Heidi - yes, a lot has changed. For the better I hope. :-)

Jackie - so true. Thanks for your kind comments. I'm glad you're enjoying the blog.